What is The Future of Radio?

Ten years ago, I was in Las Vegas presenting at the Broadcast Education Association’s annual international conference. My presentation was called “This Changes Everything.” It outlined things that would be changing in our world in the decade to come.

“Prediction is difficult…especially about the future.”

-Yogi Berra

Remembering 2011

2011 was the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, and already we were witnessing a world where mediated communication was social, global, ubiquitous and cheap. It was the beginning of the social media revolution.

Groupon, which came into existence only a couple of years earlier, grew its revenue to over $1.6 billion in 2011. And yet, the doomsayers were already forecasting its demise. As this chart shows, revenues for Groupon did drop below 2011, but not until 2020.

A contributing factor to this downward revenue trend for Groupon might be that it’s estimated that only about 1% of Groupon users ever became regular customers of the businesses whose coupons they used.


A decade ago, Twitter was the most popular social media platform with more Fortune 100 companies using Twitter than any other social media platform.

As we begin the third decade of the 21st century, we know that the previous decade will now be known most for the impact of Facebook, not Twitter, when it comes to social media dominance.

Media Adoption Rates

In 1920, the adoption rate for commercial AM radio was incredibly fast, only to be eclipsed by the introduction of TV. However, both of these two forms of communication would be dwarfed by the adoption rates of the internet followed by the use of mobile internet made possible by the smartphone.

These last two brought about revolutionary changes in how we communicate.

In fact, the famous Maslow “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid, might be updated to look like this:

How the World is Connected to the Internet

At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, 85% of the world’s population connected to the internet via wireless mobile devices.

To put that into perspective, only 80% of the world was connected to an electrical grid in 2011.

Today, 92.6% or 4.32 billion people connect to the internet wirelessly.

Top Three Gadgets of All Time

A decade ago, The History Channel came out with a list of the “Top Gadgets of All Time” and they were:

  1. Smartphone
  2. Radio
  3. Television

Hat Tip to Mary Meeker

None of these things were a secret, but it was Mary Meeker that tied all of these changes together in her presentation “Internet Trends 2011.” Her presentations are worth your time to view. The most recent one being 2019, before COVID19 disrupted everything. You can view that presentation HERE

What we do know is COVID19 took all of the changes that were slowly taking place and accelerated them dramatically. Think “warp speed.”

The big three takeaways from 2011 were:

  1. Every media consumer is now a media producer
  2. Smartphones are changing the world of mediated communications
  3. Media is now social, global, ubiquitous and cheap

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

-General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

What Technology Might a Baby Born Today, Never Use?

Let me throw out some thought starters for you to consider. Please feel free to add to this list.

  • Wired home internet
  • Dedicated cameras
  • Landline telephones
  • Slow-booting computers
  • Dialup Internet
  • Hard Drives
  • Electric typewriters
  • Movie Theaters
  • Computer Mouse
  • Remote Controls
  • Desktop computers
  • Phone numbers
  • Prime Time TV
  • Fax machines
  • Optical disks
  • Record player
  • Cassette player
  • CD Player
  • VCR or DVR
  • Radio
  • ?????

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that – was what allowed you to make great products – but the products, NOT THE PROFITS, were the motivation.”

-Steve Jobs

So, What’s the Future of Radio?

In 2011, one hundred college students were surveyed about what they believed the future of radio was, here were their top three positive comments and their top three negative comments:


  1. Radio will re-invent itself. It is always evolving.
  2. Radio has a bright future as long as there are cars. It’s the first choice for drivers.
  3. Satellite Radio will expand as subscriptions become cheaper.


  1. Devices are coming out that will allow iPods and MP3 players to be played in cars.
  2. Smartphones will gradually take over radio entertainment.
  3. The only time people listen to radio is in their cars. Even then, they have CDs & MP3s.

Radio’s Car Radio Paranoia

Then Fred Jacobs came out with a blog this week about the seemingly bleak future for AM/FM radio in cars. You can read that HERE

At the annual CES (Consumer Electronic Show) Fred’s been asking about the future of car radio every year, and noticed that more recently auto manufacturers are reluctant to give a direct answer if there might come a day when AM/FM car radios won’t be standard equipment.

For Elon Musk and Tesla, that day is already here.

How to Build Brands

Ernest Dichter is known as the father of motivational research. Over 50 years ago he did a large study on word-of-mouth persuasion that revealed the secrets of how to build brands. Dichter said there are four motivations for a person to communicate about a brand:

  1. Product-Involvement: the experience had to be so novel and pleasurable that it must be shared with others.
  2. Self-Involvement: people want to share the knowledge or opinions, as a way to gain attention, have inside information, or assert superiority.
  3. Other-Involvement: a person wants to reach out and help to express neighborliness, caring or friendship. They are often thought of a “brand evangelists.”
  4. Message-Involvement: the message is so humorous or informative that it deserves sharing.

“Win the hearts of the people, their minds will follow.”

-Roy H. Williams

So, if you are in the radio business, OR are a radio listener, the question you need to honestly ask yourself is:

How does your brand measure up?


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

10 responses to “What is The Future of Radio?

  1. Christopher Baines

    Predictions ARE about the future. To state that predictions are difficult especially those about the future is an oxymoron. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is no longer seen as being entirely globally valid.


    • Yogi Berra was famous for his malapropisms.

      A malapropism is the mistaken use of words often in place of similar-sounding ones. It can also be a nonsensical phrase — one that seems to make sense at first but leaves you scratching your head, such as these Yogi Berra malapropisms: Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.


  2. Dick is again “spot on”. The Dichter admonition is the key to the radio stations that are and will survive, indeed thrive. In the 1950’s communications theorist Wilbur Shramm coined what he called the Fraction of Selection = people turn their attention to the expectation of reward divided by the effort required” For decades, nothing could be more simple and at hand than “on/off/volume” and “tuning”. Today, native digital kids are so proficient at navigating smartphones that the effort required is meaningless. So the numerator drives it all – the expectation of reward. And that’s Ernest Dichter summarized so nicely. And it’s what the best local radio has and does so well. Some podcasts too, an occasional national radio show. “Nothing ever changes, but it does continue to mutate.” Thanks Dick for another thought-provoking blog. Now back to the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You Mike for your kind words about today’s blog article.

      Thank You as well about the reminder of Wilber Shramm’s wise words.

      In my car, as soon as I get in, my radio automatically pairs with my iPhone and anything I wish to listen to is at my fingertips. Easy-peasy!

      When it becomes effortless, change accelerates.


  3. Brian Walker

    Major radio companies are complicit in reducing, if not abandoning, towers and transmitters as a means of distributing their content. Radio as we know it is on the way out the door, replaced by radio transceivers exchanging data streams instead of one-way analog distribution of content. Why pay the electric bill and the transmission costs when you can get your audience to do it for you? 

    The only real question left is what companies will continue to serve their localities, and who will simply stream generic pap on repeated on hundreds of websites that represent what used to be a radio station.

    Town Square is probably doing the best job of filling in the gaps where other local media has already disappeared. Small-town newspapers can’t even generate enough revenue to survive. That same pressure has pushed papers in many medium and even large markets to stop producing printed content. The loss of access to reporting and editing talent is massive. In its place people are seeking information from social media. I think we all know the result of that fiasco. Social media was founded as a means of allowing free communication between people. Now its under pressure to become a curated source of information. We also know how the result of that fiasco. Now the government wants to get involved. I’m sure that will improve things…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Best of the Blog 2021 | DickTaylorBlog

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